Turtle Rescue (again)

Posted: August 31st, 2009 under Activities, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , ,

Several times in the past couple of years we’ve had to get a turtle out of the fence.  The horse lots fencing is pipe with welded-mesh cattle panels welded to the pipe–so there’s a pipe at the bottom.  Good safe horse fence, but not easy for turtles to maneuver through/around and turtles don’t seem to have the idea of paralleling a fence to find a gap.

So yesterday evening, shortly before dark, the horses were acting freakish in the barn and south barn pen, and Richard spotted a good-sized turtle.  I came out with the camera and first saw this:


The turtle had wedged its head and front partly under the lower pipe of the fence, but could not get through, and although there’s a shallow layer of sand there (we put sand down in the mucky spots of the horse yard) there’s hard, dry clay underneath.  Also, this is right by the gate from the barn lot to the 1 acre dry lot, near the horses’ water trough, and we didn’t  want the horses spooking through the gate or stepping on the turtle.

From the other side, this is what I could see under the bottom rail:


It’s easy to see that the rest of the turtle isn’t going to make it through.  The turtle is quite annoyed at this point,  and I wouldn’t like a flash in my face, either.

Here’s a better view of the dorsal surface–it was quite a pretty, clean turtle, looking as if it had just been washed and polished:


At this point I’d pulled it away from the fence a little.  It hissed at me when I did that.

The only thing we could think of to do was take it to the lily pond in the back yard–there’s no natural water for more than a mile in any direction.


I wish I knew whether it was the same one who got got in the fence earlier this year, and the same as the smaller turtle who got caught in the fence last year.  Is this turtle determined to live in our yard until the creek has water again?  If so…I need to know more about how to care for it.  An online turtle source said that many turtles die if removed from their home ranges.


  • Comment by Marjorie Procter-Smith — August 31, 2009 @ 7:35 pm


    Handsome fellow (even looking a bit peeved)! We had turtles everywhere the summer of 07, but then we had standing water everywhere that summer too. i guess they thought our farm was a wetland. Haven’t seen a one this summer. Can they smell water? Would he be trying to get at the water trough?

  • Comment by Margaret Middleton — August 31, 2009 @ 7:44 pm


    You could always “brand” it with a dob of nail polish, to see if it is indeed the same turtle over and over.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 31, 2009 @ 10:28 pm


    I’m pretty sure they can smell water, but…where did it come from? They usually travel from water to water and we are the ones with the water. Why wouldn’t it find the pond (biggest water on our place) which is moreover at ground level and easy to get into, instead of the horse trough, which is a tall one? Of course we had that 0.9 inches of rain the other day…

    It’s a mystery. (Boy, did I love that movie “Shakespeare in Love”–full of good quotes…)

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 31, 2009 @ 10:43 pm


    Um…I haven’t any nail polish (I guess I could get some nail polish in anticipation of finding this turtle stuck in a fence again…how long does it last? The nail polish, not the fence or the turtle.)

    On the dorsal view, full-size, I can see what looks like an old (I hope old) injury to the carapace, so presumably I’ll be able to tell it by that.

  • Comment by Marjorie Procter-Smith — September 1, 2009 @ 8:13 am


    Seems like nail polish would harm the turtle. Do you know what kind it is? Is it a box turtle? Red slider? Makes you wonder how far they can travel between water.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 1, 2009 @ 8:23 am


    I’m reasonably sure (though this one didn’t stick out its head) that it’s a red-eared slider.

    Definitely not a box turtle or tortoise. I haven’t seen a proper tortoise in decades. We used to get them even in town when I was a kid in the Valley. They’re vanishing, I read, like so many other things.

  • Comment by Marjorie Procter-Smith — September 1, 2009 @ 11:24 am


    Did it stay in the lily pond? Seems like that would be a pretty happy environment for a turtle.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 4, 2009 @ 4:39 pm


    We had a smaller red-eared slider (also rescued from the fence) that stayed in the pond for awhile last winter–this could be the same one grown larger. But I really don’t know. A turtle could very well hide in the pond and never be seen if it were wary, if it didn’t haul out when I happened to be looking.

  • Comment by Abigail Miller — September 7, 2009 @ 10:21 am


  • Comment by elizabeth — September 7, 2009 @ 10:40 am


    Apparently some turtles are excellent fence-climber, but not so excellent at surviving the fall on the other side. The herps guy at UT-Arlington pointed me to a site where someone reported snapping turtles, like the one in the photo you referenced, climbing quite tall chain-link fences to get out of a protected area–but they also found at least one dead on the other side, from injuries received in the fall. Still–shows the strength of those short legs.

  • Comment by Abigail Miller — September 7, 2009 @ 10:47 pm


    I did sort of worry on seeing that cheezeburger picture, what happened to the turtle next. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t walk up to it to try to pick it off the fence!

    I’m sorry tc read that you don’t see box-tortoises there. They seem to be relatively common still here in north Texas. Roads of course are a real hazard to them, though there seem to be a good number of drivers willing to stop and set them on across, at least on the two-lane roads. They seem to go walkabout in the late spring — there were several, or the same one several times, that I or my workers saw crossing the lane at my place outside Argyle.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 7, 2009 @ 11:54 pm


    We’ve lived here thirty years, and owned the 80 acres almost ten years, and I’ve never seen a box tortoise here or anywhere around. I understand they’ve become rare in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, too, where I grew up and where we used to find them regularly when I was a kid.

    The soil here is mostly clay, where it isn’t rock, so I’m guessing the burrowing type of tortoise just isn’t happy with it.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment